30th December 2016

Song Thrush- We were lucky to have what is an increasingly rare sighting of a Song Thrush today– these wonderful songsters are now on the endangered or Red List in the UK, suffering a steep decline, especially on farmland. Our Song Thrush has the largest repertoire of songs of any European Thrush, and is best towards evening leading up to the breeding season. Those singing longest are those late to pair up and those who have lost a mate. While individuals have been known to survive to their early teens, half of all juveniles die in their first year. Conditions: Another still and sunny, warmer tonight than in the day. Temperature: Max 7- Min 9C!

Todays' Song Thrush

Todays’ Song Thrush

Song Thrush

Song Thrush

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27th December 2016

Alder, though not a conifer, bears small, dark cones at this time of year. Alders thrive in damp places. Able to resist rotting, most of Venice rests on Alder piles but Alder wood also makes good charcoal for Gunpowder, probably why there is a lot in my home village (Catsfield, Sussex) where Gunpowder was a prominent industry. Having catkins from February, it provides early nectar, and several caterpillars of moths feed on it. It has a symbiotic relationship with a bacteria, which it provides with sugar through photosyntheses, while the bacteria provides it with nitrogen. This nitrogen also fertilises the surrounding plants. Lining many rivers, Alder roots provide favourite nesting places for Otters! Conditions: Deep, and crisp and even frost, and glorious sun. Temperature: Min 2- Max 8C.

Alder cones

Alder cones

Alder catkins

Alder catkins

Alders lining a Catsfield stream this frosty morning

Alders lining a Catsfield stream this frosty morning

20th December 2016

I find different conifer-types confusing so here’s one of an occasional series on identifying common conifers: Cypress have distinctive cone-types., so I’m starting with it This is a Monterey Cypress, brought over from North America and widely grown in parks, big gardens and by landowners. Crossed with the Nootka Cypress, it begat the, often problematic, Leyland Cypress! Like many non-native trees, the Cypress family are of little value to our wildlife but both the big Monterey’s and the Leyland hedges do provide shelter for birds. Conditions: Bright and cool. Temperature: Max 7- Min 6C.IMG_9158.jpgIMG_9157.jpgIMG_9160.jpgIMG_9159.jpg

14th December 2016

Jays: Out of an amazing 19 bird-species visiting the garden today, this Jay turned up. Shy and staying mostly in woodland cover, this is the best time to see Jays, as they search more widely for food and leaf cover is reduced. They have been found to be as good at solving problems as the average 7 year-old, and each one buries thousands of acorns each year, remembering where to find them when food is scarce. The acorns they don’t retrieve are crucial for the spread of Oak trees. Conditions: Sunny and still. Temperature: Max 11- Min 6C.IMG_2919.jpgIMG_2916.jpg

12th December 2016

Winter blossom from the Autumn Flowering Cherry is a boon for us and for birds that feed on the insects blossoms attract, and for birds and insects needing nectar. Autumn conditions affect the following season’s blossom on trees, especially non-native ones as, in autumn, the sugars built up in leaves are transferred more specifically to bud-development. The good autumn this year bodes well for this year’s blossom- as shown today in our Autumn Flowering Cherry blossom crop. This great tree for small gardens will flower till March and also has attractive autumn leaves. Conditions: Light cloud and drizzle Unlike the sun you are getting, Sian, in Southern Spain!!). Temperature: Max 6- Min 6C.p.birds.12 001.jpgIMG_2881.jpg

9th December 2016

IMG_9928.jpgIMG_2574.jpgIMG_7299.jpgMoth decline– as a member of Butterfly Conservation, it is sad to read how, even most of our  common and widespread Moths, like this beautiful Brimstone Moth, which I watched in the garden this year but don’t think I posted, have seriously declined over the past 40 years. Those of us who can remember driving through the night with moths everywhere in the car headlights, might enjoy Michael Mccarthy’s great book- The Moth Snowstorm, which discusses this memory and what he calls the ‘Great Thinning’ of our nature since the mid-2oth century. Conditions: Mild following a cold snap. Temperature: Max 13- Min 10C.